Dr. Brenden Moon didn’t start out with public health dentistry in mind, but following his third year of dental school at the University of Mississippi School of Dentistry, he learned about a new dental center opening in Carthage, Illinois.
A rural town of about 2,700, Carthage was close to where his mother lived and the soon-to-be-open Hancock County Dental Center. Not only did the dental community health center offer full-time work, it also offered loan repayment.
That was a “large contributor to my initial interest in the position and willingness to move,” said Dr. Moon, who worked in Carthage from 2007-12. “My wife Jessica and I discussed our options and decided that taking the position of being the first full-time dentist [there] would be a solid start to my career and our ‘grown up lives’ together.”
Dr. Moon credits his public health experience with helping him “grow” his skills. Everything he learned in Carthage he now uses to treat patients in both private practice and public health offices.
“When you get out of school as young as many dentists are — maybe 26- to 30-years old — why not?” he said. “I strongly encourage dental students to take advantage of any and all similar opportunities. What do you have to lose by getting extensive independent clinical experience and being financially rewarded for a year or two right out of school?”
After working at the health center for five years, Dr. Moon paid his student loans off entirely and says that the financial freedom from debt arrived “at least 15 years earlier” in his career.
“The decision we made to move to a more rural area and take a job in a public health setting right out of school has, in my opinion, been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made,” said Dr. Moon, who still practices in Carthage and now also works in private practice in nearby Quincy.
For more information about the U.S. Public Health Service, visit usphs.gov/profession/dentist/.
In addition to public health dentistry, there are other programs that offer financial incentives to dentists.
Dr. Rachel Hymes, a 2010 graduate of the Medical University of South Carolina Dental School, is currently in her fifth year of loan repayment in the National Health Service Corps. The NHSC offers loan repayments and scholarships for dentists who practice in Health Professional Shortage Areas.
“I went to dental school to serve those in need,” said Dr. Hymes, who now practices at a federally qualified health center in Johnson City, Tennessee.
Dr. Hymes said she heard about the NHSC loan repayment program at a dental career fair and consulted the NHSC’s website to find community health clinics in need of a dentist.
“It takes several months to apply and get accepted, so I worked for a year in a community health clinic before getting loan repayment,” she said. “I am now in my fifth year and get $10,000/year for my continuation contract.”
For information about the National Health Services Corp, visit the NHSC’s main webpage and search loans and scholarships. In 2017, the agency will expand its Students to Service Program to provide up to 75 financial awards to dentists in their final year of school.
For more information on NHSC, visit nhsc.hrsa.gov. The Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program has one-, two-, three- and four-year scholarships that cover most educational costs and provide a stipend. For more information, contact a Health Professions Recruiter to discuss opportunities with the Army, Air Force and Navy.